How it all started, Loss, Depression, and Success
When it comes to my life, I try to keep various aspects of it separate. Long ago I started to keep my work and personal life separate. This made life both easier and harder for me. Since starting this blog, I realized that there are many more times where keeping my work and personal life fully separate has been bad more than good. In the past four months, this has been heavily on my mind. So, after battling back and forth about it, I’ve decided to involve some personal thoughts and feelings. Let me start with what started me down the path of creating this blog and following my dream.
In 2010, a friend of mine died suddenly of a massive heart attack. He was only 42 years old and was in better health than I’ve been most of my life. He was one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. He was the type to offer help or advice any time you ever needed it. Truly a one of a kind type of person. This was my first dealing with the death of someone I really knew. I had both of my father’s parents pass away in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but I had only ever seen them twice in my life.
At the time of my friend’s passing, I had plans to attend DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia that September. Since I was having a rough go at dealing with his death, I decided to change my plans and take some time to myself. I took a flight to Boston for three days. I stayed in a nice hotel right on the James River and enjoyed myself. I saw Fenway, visited Sam Adams Brewery, and walked through Boston Commons. It was one of the greatest things I had ever done. The travel bug had bitten me. But I was still having a rough time coping with the loss.
Just over two months later, on my 29th birthday, I lost my grandmother. This was the only grandparent I had ever truly known. She was also the only family I had been close to outside of my siblings and parents. I was utterly devastated. So, I was back on a plane on my way to Detroit for her funeral. I flew with my brother and we met my sister and mother at the airport. The next 48 hours are a blur to this day. My brother and I stayed only long enough to attend the funeral and dinner afterwards, then flew home.
After so much emotional pain in a few months, I fell into a deep depression. Now, this was not new to me. I have dealt with depression most of my life. But this time, I was not handling it well and was not willing to get help. All I wanted to do was sit in my house and be left alone. I cut out the few friends I had, alienated my family, and began to drink. But nothing seemed to kill the pain. I couldn’t find my way anymore.
Just then, things started to look up. I finally got a new job working for the local county school system. I had been watching and applying every time a spot came open. But this time, I got in. It felt good to be starting something new. But that didn’t last long. Things with my wife and I weren’t getting better. If anything, they were getting worse. We had basically stopped talking and were not getting along except when our kids were around. But it didn’t end there. Again, a tragic death in the family struck again. My father’s sister tragically passed away and I was forced to travel yet again for a death. So, I found myself in Little Rock, Arkansas visiting with family that I barely knew. And that is when it all struck me. I could either let the hits keep knocking me down, or I could use them to strengthen myself. In the few days I was in Arkansas, I took some time to myself and decided to explore the area around the waterfront. I went to a piano bar with my brother, sister, and cousin. I enjoyed myself.
When I got back from the trip to Arkansas, I decided to start fixing my life. With the support of my closest friend, I began to rebuild my life and myself. I worked to fix things with my family, strengthened my friendships and work relationships. I was determined to not let my depression beat me. And so much good has come from doing this. My wife and I are stronger now than we ever have been. I have an awesome relationship with my kids. I spend more time with my friends, and get along better with my co-workers. I started working towards following my dreams and creating the life I truly want and not taking the easy path.
So in February of 2015 I started this blog. I started talking about visiting places around the world. I went back to college. I was absolutely determined to not let anything hold be back or keep me down. But even with this determination, there was one thing at the back of my mind that WAS holding me back. It was something I didn’t want to really think about or deal with. I wanted to believe it wasn’t a major issue. That issue was my father’s health.
Years ago, my father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He went through surgery and beat it. But it wouldn’t be the last time we heard the word cancer. A few years later, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. My father, being the man he was, wasn’t going to let it kill him. He fought a long and hard battle. When his sister died in 2014, he was already getting weak and we didn’t think he would last long. Well, he continued to push on and kept going. In the fall of 2015 he began to take a turn for the worst. He began needing help more and more. Now, I live half a mile from my parents and am always there for anything they need. So I spent a lot of my time helping my mom with my father.
Jump forward to February of 2016. On February 1st we celebrated my father’s 75th birthday. I was so happy he was still with us. It was starting to become a day-to-day worry. On February 19th I left for a long weekend in Kentucky, following the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. On the night of Saturday February 20th, I received the call I never wanted to receive. My father had passed away. I held my composure while speaking with my brother. When I got off the phone, I broke. All of the emotion that had been bottled up and held in for the past few years let go.
I spent the rest of that night trying to cope with the thought that I was out of town the day my father had passed. This had been my biggest fear when I started this blog. It was the one and only reason I had changed my plans to travel to Peru in 2016. I didn’t want to be away when he passed. But I knew that he wouldn’t want me to give up what made me happy just because of him. That was one thing he had always told me. Which is the only reason I had even traveled to Kentucky.
Needless to say, I went home the very next morning. Since then, I have been trying to silently cope with the loss of my one true hero. I was very close with my father and miss him very dearly. Dealing with the loss of a parent could only be eclipsed by the loss of a child. It is something we all must deal with at some point in our lives. But like everything, there is something to be learned.
No matter what knocks us down, we all have to learn to get back up. If we cannot get back up on our own, we need to ask others for help and support. If it were not for my friends and, more especially, my family, I would be in a very bad place. Never be ashamed to ask for help and let your feeling be known. It might be the simple gesture of a friend, family member, or stranger that could make all the difference. And please, if you are someone dealing with depression, talk to someone. Don’t wait until it is too late.